Connecting people to nature through educational experiences that promote conservation.
If you don’t have kids, you can stop reading now…just kidding…still read the review! But seriously, The Virginia Living Museum is a great place to bring your kids. You might be a little confused seeing that The Virginia Living Museum is located in Newport News instead of Williamsburg, but trust us on this one. It’s worth the short drive out into its tucked away spot because Williamsburg has nothing like it. Actually, in 1987, the Museum became the first living museum east of the Mississippi, so you might not find this sort of thing anywhere close by.
When you walk into the museum, you see an aquarium in the middle of the reception desk area, a shark hanging from the ceiling, and lots of other fun things to grab the attention of your little ones. After checking in, you’re dumped out into an atrium with various paths to take on each corner and stairs in the middle leading you down to even more exhibits. There were also tables set up in the main area for kids crafts, temporary tattoos, games, and the like. On the day we went, it was Groundhog Day, so you’re probably not going to see the same activity tables we experienced when you go. They often have fun activities though, going on all the time. Make sure to check out their special events page on their website for information on other fun things going on when planning your visit.
I hate to repeat myself, but like I said, this is a great place for kids. We decided to take along our four and two year old daughters this time. It made the experience so much more enjoyable for me by getting to see a museum like this through their eyes of amazement. Both girls absolutely loved the activity tables they had set out and probably could have spent most of the day there. But alas, we had to pull them away to enjoy all the other fun exhibits. They both loved all the “fishy” exhibits, though it took a few minutes to convince our four year old daughter that it was OK to enter the room and that there was glass separating us from the huge fish in the tanks. Besides the fish areas, there were multiple “touch, look and feel” spots for the kids. There were drawers where they could pull out an animal skeleton to look at, a butterfly collection, or an animal’s fur. There were also stations where children could touch a live horseshoe crab, among other critters.
In addition to all the great indoor exhibits, there is a large decked walkway outside that takes you to see even more animals. It was a cold day when we went, so make sure to bundle up if you’re visiting in the winter. Out there we were able to see bald eagles, otters, a fox and a wolf. And as if this wasn’t enough, the Museum also has a garden-like outdoor space where you can see various types of plants. I really enjoyed the diversity of what the Museum has to offer and how it has both indoor and outdoor exhibits and animals to see. Both our kids loved it, and I’m sure yours will too! Including the kids in all of us.
My Favorite Thing: My favorite thing was watching my four year old enjoy her favorite thing, which was the otter. There was a large tank outside showcasing the otter swimming and twirling around like it was putting on a show for us. A picture really doesn’t do it justice, but I guess it will have to do since we don’t have a video for you. My daughter kept wanting to go back to it, so I think we ended up seeing it three times!
What I would like to try next time: I’d like to see one of the shows at the Planetarium, since we didn’t get a chance to this time. Or I’d like to see their upcoming “Bodies” exhibit about the human body.
♪♪ So put your little hand in mine… ♪♪
Groundhog Day. That song is played over and over and over again in the movie Groundhog Day as Bill Murray’s character, “Phil” lives the same day (Groundhog Day) over and over and over again. And over again. Groundhog Day. Why do we celebrate this holiday honestly? As far as I know, businesses don’t make much money off of it. I could Google it to find out, but we’re not really here to talk about Groundhog Day, right? The only reason I brought it up is because, as you know by reading Mindy’s article, we visited the Virginia Living Museum on Groundhog Day. They had all sorts of crafts and games for the kids and a real live groundhog who had no idea this day was all about him (it’s “Phil”, right?).
The Virginia Living Museum is a living museum showcasing native wildlife, a botanical preserve and a planetarium. If you’re looking for a way to get a quick sample of what Virginia native wildlife is like, then this is a great way to do it. The museum is separated into different areas focusing on the specific regions in Virginia and it’s accompanying wildlife. It’s also an excellent place to bring your kids. Expand their knowledge and increase their education by taking them here for field trips, homeschool outings, or just a nice day out for the weekend. They have great events here throughout the year to help make learning about nature even more fun than it already is. As previously mentioned, we came here during Groundhog day. And that’s where our review begins…
We entered the museum and were greeted by booth after booth of Groundhog day related activities. I was hoping to see Bill Murray there, but alas, the only celebrity there was the groundhog in his lonely little cage. No matter, we were ready for nature. We brought our two little girls (2 and 4 years old) with us, which was good, otherwise I would have had to be the one getting groundhog tattoos, doing shadow puppets and coloring inside the lines. Don’t get me wrong, I like crafts… that’s not true. I don’t like crafts. My kids do though, and that was good enough. The museum is separated into two levels. You enter on the top level in the center area where you can experience some “hands on” activities such as discovering the many textures of the sea creatures they have in their Touch Tank or feeling the skin and fur of the mainland creatures in their Activities section. This was a great way for us to start off the visit and get the kids excited about the museum. After this, we moved into the Piedmont and Mountains Gallery. Here we were introduced to a display of the wildlife known for this region, such as bass, catfish and turtles. From there we entered into the cool mist of the Appalachian Mountain Cove, which was filled with trees, birds and fish swimming along in a little mountain stream. We next went into my favorite part of the museum, the Coastal Plain Gallery. Here is where you will get to experience a little glimpse of the Chesapeake Bay. They have a huge 30,000 gallon aquarium filled with various large sea creatures that have the kids and adults alike pressing their faces against the glass to get as close a look as they can. From here you take a step into the Cypress Swamp – “A re-creation of a vital and endangered wetland habitat.” Alligators, snapping turtles and massive cypress tress fill this area.
We proceeded down the stairs where you are greeted by a sculpture of a dinosaur that could be similar to what would have been found in our region during that time. We tried a few more hands-on activities here and then proceeded into the Virginia’s World of Darkness region where you come eye-to-eye with nocturnal animals such as tiny sharks, ghost crabs, flying squirrels and bats. Don’t worry, they’re behind glass… I think. From there we turned back to enter the Virginia’s Underground Gallery region. This is a cave with fossils, rocks, minerals and gems that could help ignite or spur on the careers of any future geologists out there.
We then had a tough decision to make – whether or not to go outside. I mean, come on, it was the first week of February. After I stopped crying and whining, we toughed it out, put on our coats and headed for the cold, yet intriguing outdoor area of the Virginia Living Museum. Here you get to take a beautiful stroll along their boardwalk which takes you over water and through forests to encounter various outdoor wildlife including otters, birds, wolves, beavers, foxes, turkeys and deer. They also have an amphitheater and a planetarium with various shows throughout the year.
It was a nice little Saturday outing. One that not only entertained, but also educated. And that’s great to have here in our area. Not just for the kids, but for the little learners in all of us. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog) didn’t see his shadow. Which means an early spring. Woohoo! Especially for the winter wusses like me.
My Favorite Thing: I’m a marine life nut. I grew up in Miami and love the ocean. So my favorite part was by far The Coastal Plain Gallery. Especially getting to see my two little girls getting so excited about all the “fishies”.
What I would like to try next time: We didn’t get to check out the planetarium, and I haven’t been in one of those since I was a kid. I’d like to do that again.